Mon
Sep 24 2012 11:00am

A Read of The Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Wizard and Glass, Come Reap, Chapter 9: “Reaping,” Sections 12-23

A Read of Stephen King’s series The Dark Tower on Tor.com

“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”

—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here.

When we last left our cast, Susan had been knocked around and taken by Jonas, Sheemie was in hiding somewhere in the Bad Grass, and our boys were lying in wait for the entourage carrying the Wizard’s Glass.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 12

Ah, here’s Sheemie. He’s hiding in the tall Bad Grass, watching as Susan spits in Jonas’s face and they take her with them. Mentally, he’s begging Susan not to make them mad, but she does. He ponders whether to go after his friend Arthur Heath and the boys, or whether he should follow Susan. But Susan’s trail is clear, so he follows on foot.

What Constant Reader Learns: Still love Sheemie, and am hoping the comment “good old Arthur Heath…so Sheemie still thought of him, and always would” means that Sheemie, at least, will get out of this story alive.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 13

Cuthbert is growing impatient as they wait and wait for Jonas and Co. He goes off to pout after Alain snaps at him. “Waiting,” he says. “That’s what most of our time in Mejis is about, and it’s the thing I do worst.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Me too, Bert! Let’s get this show moving! Although I do appreciate the irony of having a short section in which nothing happens except having the character complain that nothing is happening.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 14

Jonas finally catches up with Fran Lengyll’s party and Susan can’t resist trying to embarrass him after the role he played in her father’s death, actually managing to kick him in the back from her horse and knock him down. For this, she earns a “wallop” to her head, but still has enough sense about her to enjoy watching Lengyll scuttle back to his men. Rhea, of course, is enjoying the show, cackling in her cart.

Jonas says he’s going to send Reynolds back to Seafront with Susan, and Reynolds is relieved to not be going to Hanging Rock, about which he has a bad feeling.

Announcing that he “has a piece of property to take back,” Jonas rides back to Rhea, flanked by Reynolds and Depape. Rhea’s not thrilled about this, and threatens to break it before she’ll give it up. Jonas has Reynolds pull his gun on her, and starts counting to three. At the last nanosecond, she breaks and thrusts it toward him.

As he takes it, Jonas’s mind “was a white explosion of exultation. For the first time in his long professional life he forgot his job, his surroundings, and the six thousand things that could get him killed on any day.” But after a moment, he gets enough control to hang the bag that contains the glass on his saddle, which allows him a little relief from its influence.

Next, he gives Rhea the count of ten to get lost, and she doesn’t wait: “Spitting curses, Rhea snatched up the reins of the cart and spanked the pony’s back with them. The pony laid its ears back and jerked the cart forward so vigorously that Rhea went tumbling backward off the cantboard, her feet up, her white and bony shins showing above her ankle-high black shoes and mismatched wool stockings.” She curses at them as she rides away.

What Constant Reader Learns: When Rhea hands over the glass, she tells Jonas she hopes it damns him just as it’s damned her. I think this is the first time we’ve had any acknowledgement that Rhea realized what the glass was doing to her.

Jonas’s reaction when he gets the glass in his hand: Mine. (Precioussssss.)

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 15

Jonas tells Reynolds to go ahead and take “Sunbeam” Susan to Coral and tell her to “keep the wench someplace safe until she hears from me.” He also asks Reynolds to stay with Coral and escort her to the mining town of Ritzy, which is where Jonas hopes to meet up with Coral again. This is fine with Reynolds, and he leads Susan away. She’s become silent since her last wallop upside the head.

Jonas tells his men they number almost forty, and the group they’ll be joining has another hundred and fifty. All of them against three “little boys.” He pumps them into a killing frenzy, so they’re all ready to go out and destroy the boys. But only after they get the tankers moved to the woods west of Eyebolt Canyon.

What Constant Reader Learns: I’m guessing Jonas has unwittingly just saved Clay Reynolds’ life by sending him to escort Coral from Hambry instead of joining them at Hanging Rock. We’ll see. And, even now, he’s still thinking of Roland, Al, and Bert as kids. Dangerous kids, maybe, but still kids.

Jonas keeps touching the sack that’s holding the Wizard’s Glass, and it gives him “pink strength.” It will be interesting to see what happens when Roland gets his hands on it, because we know he will.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 16

Sheemie is almost mowed down by Rhea riding her cart past him, screaming and gibbering. He’s thankful she didn’t see him, lest she turn him into “a bird or a bumbler or maybe even a mosquito.”

When Jonas and his men ride away, this time they leave Capi the mule behind. And while it surely would be easier to follow by mule, Sheemie figures Capi would bray at the wrong time and give him away. So, instead, he follows Susan and Reynolds on foot.

What Constant Reader Learns: If nothing else, Sheemie knows right from wrong. He feels “shamed…to know how many Mejis cowboys were doing that bad Coffin Hunger’s bidding.”

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 17

Alain’s touch tells him the riders are on their way again—“all of them.” Roland tells Cuthbert that much of their success will lie with him and his slingshot.

This is also, Roland realizes, his friends’ day of testing. “Today it was Cuthbert and Alain’s turn to be tested—not in Gilead, in the traditional place of proving behind the Great Hall, but here in Mejis, on the edge of the Bad Grass, in the desert, and in the canyon.”

“Prove or die,” Alain says. “That’s what it comes down to.”

What Constant Reader Learns: I like this description of Cuthbert as they prepare for the riders. “With the laughter gone from them, he had the hollow eyes of just one more killer.” In fact, all the boys have turned into gunslingers, only with a little more trepidation as they realize the time is approaching when their game will be won or lost.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 18

Reynolds and Susan continue to ride toward Seafront, and the farther they get from Jonas, the faster Reynolds wants to ride. When he stops to relieve himself, Susan takes some satisfaction in seeing the herd of horses on the drop untended and beginning to stray.

She can’t help taunting Reynolds a bit, talking about how he’s afraid, and if he’d let her go, maybe her friends would go easy on him.

What Constant Reader Learns: In some perverse way, I kind of like Clay Reynolds. I don’t know what his background is, really, and he’s probably not an important enough character for us to know that. But he at least is painted with a fuller brush than Roy Depape, so his personality has a few nuances. 

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 19

Uh oh, back to poor old Aunt Cordelia. She’s sleep-deprived and half crazed. All her hopes have been dashed “by two willful young people who couldn’t keep their pants up.” She’s indulging in some serious self-pity: “They’ll find me dead in this chair, someday—old, poor, and forgotten.”

She hears a “weak scratching” at the window and—surprise!—it’s Rhea. Cord recognizes her, even in the witch’s horrific condition. But even though Cord has no social standing left, she says “I can’t have such as thee in my house…I have a reputation…Folk watch me close, so they do.” (Actually, no they don’t.)

But Rhea has the magic words: “I know where [Susan] is…We have women’s work.” So Cord helps her inside. Rhea pulls out a silver charm and hypnotizes Cordelia with it, then issues some orders. Cordelia agrees, then goes to get a knife because Rhea needs “refreshing.” She cuts into her own stomach, and Rhea drinks the blood.

What Constant Reader Learns: Love the gross-out description of Rhea: “The crone’s stringy white hair (what remained of it) hung in her face. Sores festered on her cheeks and brow; her lips had split and drizzled blood down her pointed, warty chin. The corneas of her eyes had gone a filthy gray-yellow, and she panted like a cracked bellows as she moved.”

Well, sheesh, that’s just… gross. Another blood sacrifice of a different sort.

A reference to the Tower! Just before Rhea enjoys her O-positive cocktail, she says of the blood: “Like roses. I dream of them often enough, roses in bloom, and what stands black among ‘em at the end of the world.”

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 20

Roland has a brief moment of fear that the approaching riders are going to come right upon them and kill them “like a nest of moles uncovered by the blade of a passing plow.”

The boys pull their guns and are glad to see the riders have strung out farther apart since departing the Bad Grass, which will make their plan easier. As soon as the riders pass, the boys get on their horses.

What Constant Reader Learns: Nice end to this short section: “Mount up,” Roland tells Alain and Cuthbert. “Reaping’s come.” A master of understatement, Roland.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 21

The boys walk their horses to the edge of the Bad Grass, about two hundred yards behind the last of Jonas’s riders. Roland and company fall in behind them, worried some of the riders will turn around and notice them, but the wind’s blowing sand in the riders’ faces and no one’s watching. When they get twenty yards behind, Bert begins loading his slingshot and dropping the riders.  Once three riders are down, they begin to gallop. Roland and Alain draw their knives and take out four more.

What Constant Reader Learns: The winds of ka are blowing in the boys’ favor, so they’re able to steadily take out the rear riders without the other riders realizing what’s going on. Gotta admit it is a clever plan, particularly with a little suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 22

By the time Roland has to draw his gun and take a rider out, they’ve felled ten—a quarter of Jonas’s men. Now, he knows, “the first part of the job was done. No more stealth; now it was a matter of raw killing.”

“To me, gunslingers!” he shouts. “Ride them down! No prisoners!”

They ride into battle for the first time, “closing like wolves on sheep, shooting before the men ahead of them had any slight idea of who had gotten in behind them or what was happening. The three boys had been trained as gunslingers, and what they lacked in experience they made up for with the keen eyes and reflexes of the young. Under their guns, the desert east of Hanging Rock became a killing floor.”

Ahead, finally, Roland spots Jonas, Depape, and Lengyll reining their horses around to see what’s behind them. Hash Renfrew tries to fire, but “Roland had no thought of retreating, or perhaps jigging to one side or the other. He had, in fact, no thoughts at all. The fever had descended over his mind and he burned with it like a torch inside a glass sleeve.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Here we have baby gunslinger hands taking over: “Screaming, not a single thought among them above the wrists of their deadly hands, they sliced into the unprepared Mejis party like a three-sided blade, shooting as they went.” 

Some classic Saturday afternoon western imagery in this section as the boys gallop full-tilt, Roland firing his pistols and clutching the reins in his teeth.

It’s pretty cool to see not only how hapless the “vaqueros” are, but how utterly outmatched they are by these three boys. The difference between even unproven gunslingers and others is striking and well shown in these sections. Don’t you just know that Eldred Jonas has been used to being the biggest, baddest man around—only to be forced to face up to his inadequacy in the face of a real, albeit young, gunslinger. 

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 23

Jonas is riding along happily until he hears words from his past: “Hile! To me! No prisoners!” and he knows the boys have caught them. He is aware of the Wizard’s Glass in its bag hanging from the pommel of his saddle. “Then the kid [Roland] was firing, and he was good—better than anyone Jonas had ever seen in his life.”

Jonas watches Renfrew fall. Lengyll tries to order the boys to stop and gets a bullet in his forehead for the trouble. Depape gets his revolver caught in his serape and doesn’t get it out before Roland blows his face off.

Jonas, meanwhile, is still trying to make sense of it: “This can’t be happening,” he thinks. “There are too many of us.” The rest of Jonas’s men are scattering, though. He finally snatches the drawstring bag with the glass in it and holds it up. “Come any closer and I’ll smash it,” he says. “I mean it, you damned puppy! Stay where you are!”

But Roland’s head is out to lunch and his hands aren’t listening. Then, instead of thinking of Roland as a puppy, Jonas thinks, “It’s Arthur Eld himself come to take me.”

Still, he thinks, hopes, that Roland won’t risk losing the wizard’s glass.

Roland shoots him in the hand, then catches the bag in mid-air. Finally, Jonas gets two bullets in the face, and “the man with the white hair landed spread-eagled on his back with a thump. His arms and legs spasmed, jerked, trembled, then stilled.”

He rides back to Alain and Cuthbert, who “sat their horses side by side in the blowing dust, at the end of a scattered road of dead bodies, their eyes wide and dazed—eyes of boys who have passed through fire for the first time and can hardly believe they have not been burned.”

Finally, Roland pulls out the wizard’s glass, which is pulsing with pink light. Bert tells him to put it away, that they don’t have time because the riders who got away will spread the word to the larger group ahead. But Roland was caught. “He held [the glass] up to his eyes, unaware that he had smeared it with droplets of Jonas’s blood. The ball did not mind; this was not the first time it had been blood-touched. It flashed and swirled formlessly for a moment, and then its pink vapors opened like curtains. Roland saw what was there, and lost himself within it.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Lengyll tries to stop the boys “in the name of the Horsemen’s Association” ...Really? Man, you deserve to be shot in the head.

Interesting observation: “When Roland remembered all this later, it was distant and silent and queerly warped, like something seen in a flawed mirror…or a wizard’s glass.”

Roland and the glass…uh-oh.

I’m going to miss Jonas. I find myself regretting that he won’t be around to see what is bound to be the brilliance of the Eyebolt Canyon plan. 


That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of Wizard and Glass, Chapter 10, “Beneath the Demon Moon (II).”

22 comments
Gilead
1. Gilead
Well, wasn't that epic. Little disappointed how easily Jonas got taken in, but I have always loved the battle of this chapter.
Jack Flynn
2. JackofMidworld
Cuthbert (Cooth-bert? ;-) with his slingshot is just an awesome image. Wonder what Cort would've done if he'd chosen that as his testing weapon.

Oddly enough, when I was reading this today, the visual in my head was actually a cartoon. I think it was because the pink grapefruit being right in the middle of the combat made me think of the green glowing marble from Heavy Metal and all the bad things that followed after it.
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
Gilead - I've noticed that a lot of Sai King's Big Bads seem to go out like chumps instead of champs. Getting their comeuppance, I guess.
Suzanne Johnson
4. Susannah Sandlin
@Gilead. I agree. After an entire book building up Jonas as the bad guy, I was disappointed at how quickly and easily he met his end. It seemed to call for something more epic. I realize the Eyebolt plan is most important in terms of the overall series plot, but seems like Jonas should have been a part of that. In the end, he was kind of insignificant, and maybe that was the point.
Gilead
6. CallahanOTheRoads
It always bugged me a little that Bert didn't get to shoot Roy DePape. It would have been so easy to work that in.
JackofMidworld has a point, too- Heavy Metal was cool, and Bert rules with a slingshot. I hear his name as "Cuth-Bert", though. Maybe Sheemie hears that name in the same way that Roland hears the word "aspirin"?
Suzanne Johnson
7. Susannah Sandlin
@Callahan...maybe so about Sheemie hearing Cuthbert's name differently. I sound it out the same way you do.

Yes, Bert should have been able to shoot Depape!
Gilead
9. StrongDreams
If King wanted me to think "Key-youth-bert" in my head he should have said so in book one. He's "Kuhthbert" and will be forever.
Gilead
10. Shep
I agree it's cuthbert.

I think the lack of "giving the reader what they want" in this scene is a little nod to the fact that this was very new to King, writing a western gun fight type scene. He put this off (as I will always view him as the gunslinger) in the book and in real life, waiting until this book and THEN building it up for 200 pages. I just think he was having trouble figuring out what he wanted to happen and therefore treated it like a first dip in the ocean....instead of dipping his toe in and taking his time, he decided he just wasn't sure how to do it right, so he dove in head first. I really like it, though!

(This is a hard thing to explain, but I think the 200 page leadup was what caused the head first dive. I just think he had toget it over with)
Suzanne Johnson
11. Susannah Sandlin
@Shep...you may be right. I really liked the scene--loved the way he set it up and described it. I could visualize it perfectly. My only complaint was that the Jonas buildup didn't have enough of a payoff for me. I'd like to have seen him slink away to get his due in Eyebolt Canyon, or something so that the climactic scene of the book involved him in some way. Of course I also was of the school of thought who believed Lord of the Rings had about four endings too many :-)
Gilead
12. Damn
Disappointed that the game of Castles did not end with a epic style western duel between Roland and Jonas. Still loved the other badassery during the attack.
Gilead
13. Alias
JackofMidworld - That is true. Bad guys go down in a very anticlimatic fashions at the end. Book seven comes into mind, but I guess that depends of a person.
Gilead
14. StrongDreams
I can think of at least 3 reasons why Jonas went down like a chump.

First, it's true to the character. Roland and Jonas seemed evenly matched when they were both hiding behind their disguises, and Jonas even got the drop on him once. But Jonas' big coffin hunter disguise is hiding a shamed boy who failed his test of manhood and was sent west, while Roland's rich kid from in-world disguise hides the greatest and last gunslinger of this age of the world.

Second it's true to the situation. Jonas is protecting his assets exactly as he planned, first the ball, then the tankers. What should he do, run off and hide and make Roland track him down? And remember, he died with his own gun still in its holster because he went for the ball instead. Why did he think "they won't risk the ball"? How does Jonas know the boys haven't been ordered to destroy it for the Affiliation? Because the ball is already inside Jonas' head, protecting itself (in a prolonged battle, it might have been damaged by a stray bullet, or Jonas' dead horse falling on it).

FInally, remember why Roland is telling this story. He heard the sound of the thinny in Topeka, and it unlocked a memory, and he fainted. It's not the memory of his first triumph in battle as a real gunslinger. Re-read the last sentence of chapter 4, section 1.
Suzanne Johnson
15. Susannah Sandlin
@StrongDreams...True. As I said, I realize it made more sense for the story for Jonas to go down in this way at this time. My disappointment was purely as a reader who might understand why Jonas went down as he did but still wished for a bigger emotional payoff at the end rather than the cerebral payoff.
Gilead
16. Daydreamer
BUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO SUSAN!??
Suzanne Johnson
17. Susannah Sandlin
@Daydreamer...I think it's becoming pretty clear that Susan is going to have a very hot Reap Night :-( ... and I have to wonder if Roland doesn't see it happening in the glass. That seems to be where it's headed, anyway.
Gilead
18. TheHardTruth
Everybody knows I got a big kick out of Eldred's character. His ending...yes it left much to be desired. To say the least :(

I won't spoil the ending of any other King Novels but - this is not an isolated case, unfortunately. Several books have memorable ''Bad Guys'' who the readers look so forward to a Big Finale and...nothing. In fact, while building UP characters is a great strength of King's, character RESOLUTION and Endings in genral...sometimes prove to be anticlimactic, to be kind.

Suzz - Ive really enjoyed your work. Ill say two things:

1 WandG aint over yet!!! ;)

2 WotC - love it or hate it - DEFINITELY moves at a speedier clip.

- Hardy
Gilead
19. Andy T.
I guess I'm one of the few who managed to overcome the KUTHbert prononuciation of Cuthbert. I guess it just stuck in the right mental slot after I read W&G the first time1 14+ years ago. It's been kee-youth-bert for me ever since.

Kind of like Depape's name - at some point I started mentally (mis)pronouncing it DEE-PAPPAY, and I'm probably the only person who's ever pronounced that one that way. lol (and there's a reason for this, actually, but it's a bit off-topic)

Lastly - yeah I'm another one who's been a bit let down by lackluster antagonist eliminations!

-Andy
Jack Flynn
20. JackofMidworld
Alias, you read my mind.

Admittedly, there are plenty of King stories where the end fight is hard core and, well, big-budget-movie-esque, but maybe in Jonas's case (and others), he's aiming towards "it's the journey, not the destination" or focusing more on the repercussions of the climax, than the climax itself?
Gilead
21. Maxim
I was about to comment how the book five, WotC, is getting closer and closer, until I remembered the other plot in the ka-tet's present time. The glass building in the horizon etc.
Suzanne Johnson
22. Susannah Sandlin
@Maxim...Yes, I keep thinking about that too. In some ways, I'll hate leaving our kiddie ka-tet behind.
Gilead
23. TheHobbit
Well, the story of the kiddie ka-tet is the real story of the book four. The beginning was about dealing with Blaine, while the ending is just an ending for ka-tet to continue their long journey towards the Tower.

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